In the early twentieth century, Sir Henry Dale and others described brilliant studies of autonomic neurotransmission utilizing acetylcholine and noradrenaline. However, within the past 60 years, new discoveries have changed our understanding of the organization of the autonomic nervous system, including the structure and function of the nonsynaptic autonomic neuroeffector junction, the multiplicity of neurotransmitters, cotransmission, neuromodulation, dual control of vascular tone by perivascular nerves and endothelial cells, the molecular biology of receptors, and trophic signaling. Further, it is now recognized that an outstanding feature of autonomic neurotransmission is the inherent plasticity afforded by its structural and neurochemical organization and the interaction between expression of neural mediators and environmental factors. In this way, autonomic neurotransmission is matched to ongoing changes in demands and can sometimes be compensatory in pathophysiological situations.


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